Man who testified at his Capitol riot trial awaits verdict

A New Mexico man who is the first defendant to testify at a trial over the U.S. Capitol riot claims a police officer waved him into the building that day. A prosecutor dismissed that testimony as “nonsense.”

A federal judge will decide whether Matthew Martin broke any laws on his path into and out of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of former President Donald Trump’s supporters disrupted Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden didn’t immediately rule Wednesday after hearing attorneys’ closing arguments in the case against Martin, one of hundreds of people charged with federal crimes arising from the Jan. 6 siege. McFadden heard testimony without a jury after Martin’s trial started Tuesday. He is expected to announce a verdict Wednesday afternoon.

Two other Capitol riot defendants already have been tried on federal charges arising from the siege on Jan. 6, 2021. Both trials ended with convictions, although one defendant was acquitted of a disorderly conduct charge.

Dozens of Capitol riot defendants have pleaded guilty and been sentenced, but Martin is the first to testify at a trial. He said he “went with the flow” as he approached the Capitol and testified that he saw a police officer wave him into the building. Martin remained inside the Capitol for about 10 minutes after entering the building through the Rotunda doors, according to prosecutors.

Martin said he “enjoyed the day” of the riot.

“It was a magical day in many ways,” he testified on Tuesday before adding, “I know some bad things happened.”

“You understand that police officers died?” Justice Department prosecutor Michael Romano asked Martin.

The riot resulted in a handful of deaths and left more than 100 police officers injured. One officer died after he collapsed hours after being sprayed with bear spray and other officers who tried to quell the riot have died by suicide in the months following the attack.

Martin is charged with four misdemeanor counts: entering and remaining in a restricted building, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building, violent entry and disorderly conduct in a Capitol building and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.

Prosecutors said Martin, an engineer, worked for a government contractor at the National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and held a top-secret security clearance on Jan. 6. Martin said he actually worked at a different facility in Los Alamos.

Defense attorney Dan Cron said Martin saw another person shake a police officer’s hand after entering the Capitol. Martin placed his hand on an officer’s shoulder “as a gesture of thanks and of good will,” Cron said.

“It was a very loud scene there. There was a lot going on there to try to process,” Cron told the judge.

Martin isn’t accused of engaging in any violence or destruction.

“The whole time he’s in there he’s just standing there,” Cron said.

Romano, the Justice Department prosecutor, said Martin joined the mob in crowding police officers who were trying to disperse the crowd. The prosecutor said Martin knew that he wasn’t allowed to be in the Capitol.

“The idea that he thought he had permission to do that is nonsense,” Romano said.

Other riot defendants have also claimed police waved them in or said they could enter, but it is unclear how that testimony will be viewed by the courts.

McFadden presided over a bench trial last month for Cuoy Griffin, a county official in New Mexico who helped found a group called Cowboys for Trump. The judge on March 22 convicted Griffin of illegally entering restricted U.S. Capitol grounds but acquitted him of engaging in disorderly conduct.

On March 8, a jury decided the first Capitol riot trial by convicting a Texas man, Guy Reffitt, of storming the Capitol with a holstered handgun. Jurors also convicted Reffitt of obstructing Congress’ joint session to certify the Electoral College vote, interfering with police officers who were guarding the Capitol and threatening his two teenage children if they reported him to law enforcement.

Reffitt and Griffin entered restricted areas outside the Capitol but not the building itself.

Meanwhile, a jury trial started on Tuesday for a former police officer from Virginia who is charged with storming the Capitol with a fellow officer.

A federal prosecutor said former Rocky Mount police officer Thomas Robertson stormed the Capitol because he believed the 2020 presidential election had been stolen from Trump and he wanted to interfere with the certification of the Electoral College vote.

The other former officer, Jacob Fracker, pleaded guilty to a riot-related charge and could be a key witness for prosecutors. Robertson’s trial resumed on Wednesday with testimony from a Metropolitan Police Department officer who supervised other officers during the riot.

More than 770 people have been charged with riot-related federal crimes. Over 240 of them have pleaded guilty, mostly to misdemeanors, and over 140 of them have been sentenced.

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